Author: Bill Aulet

An Easter 2021 basket full of random updates:

Trish Cotter Moves On:

After over 5 years of complete dedication to the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, Executive Director Trish Cotter has decided to transition out to find her next challenge. Trish’s spectacular contributions in running delta v, operations, teaching, mentoring, and overseeing the myriad of other programs like EDP has brought the center to a whole new level. She has been a gift to the students, the staff, MIT Sloan, MIT, and the entire entrepreneurial community, and while we hate to lose her, we understand and are so grateful for the time we have had. Trish loves challenges (and defeating them!) and is now ready for her next one, leaving the center in a great place. We will forever be indebted to her.

In addition, Tommy Long, our head of operations at the center, is also ready for a new challenge and has likewise taken the tail end of the pandemic to pursue a new challenge at a private sector educational company (Emeritus) to apply his rich skill set in a dynamic new environment. Both are huge losses, but as an organization relentlessly committed to the development of our clients (students and others), we show the same commitment to the development of our staff, so this is the price we gladly pay, even if it is hard at times. We are also committed to being Antifragile so we have already put plans into place for Trust Center 3.0, a new set of actions to take us to yet another level building off the strong foundation built by Trish and Tommy.

New Leadership for delta v 2021:

With Trish’s departure, the new leaders of MIT delta v will be familiar faces. Carly Chase takes the helm for this flagship program having been at our center since 2017 when she founded the Trust Center NYC Startup Studio. Carly has since taken on increasing responsibilities each year including StartMIT, teaching our Advanced Entrepreneurship Course, taking over and revitalizing our Membership Program, and, most recently, teaching Corporate Entrepreneurship. She will be running delta v with experienced partners Paul Cheek, Kit Hickey, and Kosta Ligris – all Entrepreneurs In Residence (EIRs) at our center as well as Lecturers teaching entrepreneurship. The program is in great hands and will be going full throttle this summer. We look forward to the innovations the team will be implementing and experimenting with the new cohort. Applications are already in and it is looking like a very strong, dynamic, and diverse set of student ventures. Can’t wait.

New Online Course on “Finance and Financing” for Entrepreneurs Under Development Now:

My big side project now is working on something that people have been requesting for years, but the pandemic finally gave me some time to work on. Following the success of our edX online courses, the most frequent question I get is “When will there be additional courses on how to raise money and how to build a great team?”

While I think the latter is more important than the former, creating a fundraising course is easier and we are working on that with urgency now. Partnering with renowned MIT Sloan professors and experts Antoinette Schoar and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf as well as Teaching Assistants Merritt Jenkins and Riana Shah, we are in the midst of creating what we believe will be a unique course. It is targeted at entrepreneurs who don’t know anything about finance to start and explain why they should learn—and what specifically they should learn—without turning them into MBAs, investment bankers, accountants, or anything of the sort. We plan to explain all that you need to know, but with the rigor and relevance that MIT is well known for. The course will make all of this accessible in a way that has never been possible. In addition to the entrepreneur’s perspective, we will also offer the investor’s perspective (Matthew) and the researcher’s perspective (Antoinette). It has been a lot of work so far but also great fun, and I can’t wait for the result. Hope to have it out in the second half of 2021.

Positive Side of the Pandemic:

While we would never have wished for a pandemic, we have to acknowledge there have been some positive things that have come out of this. The ability to do outreach and connect with external (to MIT) entrepreneurial stakeholders has been severely limited in the past. As I look back over just the past 30 days, we have been able to do very meaningful engagement with workshops for Volta/Dalhousie University/CDL in Halifax, Catalyst in Belfast, Oxford University (upcoming), and The Cube in Spain. We were able to do all of this without having to waste time on planes and recovering from time zone adjustments. We could do this without missing a beat on all of our activities at MIT as well. It has been awesome and I hope it continues after the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I miss seeing people in person and that is even better, but this is not back and the ROI might be even higher. There will be a mix of virtual and in person in the future, but we will never go back to the old way. There is another alternative now.

Post Pandemic Pandemonium:

The Pandemic of 1918 was followed by the Roaring ’20s. I don’t think that was an accident. You can feel the energy waiting to be unleashed when this pandemic is over and it is going to be very exciting. Make sure your seat belts are fastened and your trays are in a locked and upright position because it is going to be a bit crazy, but a great time to be alive.

Books I am Reading* Now:

I include an asterisk because any of you who know me know I listen to the books while working out, walking, driving, or something else rather than technically reading them. Admit it, you do too for the most part. In any case, I was a bit surprised how a previous post of best books was so well received so let me tell you what I am reading now and my preliminary thoughts. Would also love suggestions.

The first book is called “Grasp” by Sanjay Sarma and you will hear a lot more about this in a future post. I have finished it and am still processing all the lessons I am taking away from it. “Grasp” is a history and study of how we teach and learn using brain and cognitive science in a way I had never seen before. As a disclaimer, I work a lot with Sanjay and like him a lot so I cannot be considered unbiased, but I feel I can still be pretty objective. The book has already changed how I think about teaching in subtle and profound ways. His biological explanations of how humans learn and retain information is something that we may have understood a bit instinctually, but he drives these points home so they become more central to how we should teach. Stimulating curiosity, repeating things over time, and peer-to-peer learning are just a few of the things I am taking away. I keep going back to the book to review parts to see how I can make our courses and programs more inclusive and impactful. Great, great stuff here.

The book I am reading now is called “Why Startups Fail” and has just come out. It’s by the extremely well regarded Tom Eisenmann from Harvard Business School who oversees their entrepreneurial efforts including the iLab. I am only up to Chapter 3 so far, but it is exceptionally well written (I wish I could write that well) and makes a lot of good points. Personally, I must say that I have yet to hit the point where I have gotten great new insights and, for those of you who know me, I am no fan of the constant references to “Lean Startup methodology.” While Lean Startup was helpful to popularize these concepts at an important time, I think Stefan Thomke’s research and other work on experimentation was more precise and helpful to me. The Lean Startup “movement” (never liked that word for an educational concept) went overboard and actually got too much attention relative to all the other things that need to be done to make a successful new innovation-driven venture. That being said and off my chest now, this is a personal peeve and I am sure I will get over it by the end of the book because Tom does such great work and is just a font of knowledge on the topic of entrepreneurship. I am less than 30% done with the book so far so much remains to be sorted out and these are just my first impressions. I fully intend to finish the book, which is not true for about 70% of the books I start. You are getting feedback in the middle of the process, which is always dangerous, but there you go. Never short on opinions but ready to, as Adam Grant said, “think again” and change them.

Happy Easter to all and hope you and your loved ones are healthy, safe, and mentally sound. We are almost to the other side. Stay strong and we will be reborn better and into an exciting time in the history of human